On April 4, a family of intrepid Aussies set out on a journey to ride their bikes more than 5,000 kilometers from Barcelona, Spain, to the Baltic Sea of Germany. The bike trek is a fundraiser to promote awareness and raise financing for Clinica Verde, a sustainably designed health clinic for impoverished women and children in Boaco, Nicaragua.
Michael and Shoshanna Hindmarsh were inspired to take their 2-year-old daughter Amaya on the ambitious adventure following a trip to Nicaragua in 2011.
“We saw Clinica Verde being built and were really impressed with the concept,” says Michael. “We also visited a handful of remote villages while in Nicaragua and quickly realized that there is a serious need for pre- and post-natal care. This really stuck a chord with us, especially since Shoshanna was four months pregnant at the time. It is our desire that all mothers and their children receive a similar quality of care to what we experienced in Australia.”
The family rides their custom-built Surly bikes 60-70 kilometers a day, with Amaya settled happily in a Burley D’lite baby trailer, where she sings songs, reads, sleeps and looks out the window.
“She is what makes this adventure truly big!” says Michael, who calls the effort “Baby on a Bike.” The Hindmarsh family prepares their own food on a small cooker and sleeps in campgrounds along the route.
My husband, U.S. physician Tim Lyons, and I started Clinica Verde, a nonprofit organization founded in the U.S., in 2007 after visiting Nicaragua. We were struck by the need and opportunity to create an innovative approach to health and wellbeing for the poorest of the poor. I enlisted the support of Cristiana Chamorro, journalist and founder of the Violeta Chamorro Foundation, and Margarita Gurdian, the former Minister of Health of Nicaragua.
I knew that with the guidance of these great women we could accomplish big things. After years of working collaboratively on the design of the clinic with Clinica Verde’s Board of Directors and advisors in Nicaragua, and raising money abroad, Clinica Verde’s construction was built on land donated by Boaco Mayor Vivian Orozco. This clinic opened in January, 2012 and is currently serving more than 1,100 patients per month.
Clinica Verde’s success is truly a partnership between countries and across divides. It took an enormous amount of time and effort to realize the vision, but we did it—thanks to support from abroad, Dr. Armando Incer and Mayor Orozco in Boaco, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health, and the faith and commitment of hundreds of compassionate people.
The vision was a shared one: to create something wonderful that would improve the health of the impoverished people of Nicaragua.
Clinica Verde takes a “whole health” approach to wellbeing, beginning from the ground up with a sustainable design and extending to excellent clinical care, including health and nutrition education. The clinic was designed not only with exam rooms, but a community room with a demonstration kitchen used as a tool to teach nutrition, a space for a small café, a courtyard area for children and, eventually, an organic working garden.
We have not yet been able to raise funds for the playground and garden projects, but are fortunate to have the clinic operating and providing excellent clinical care to women and children. Clinica Verde is led by Dr. Alba Castillo and Rafael Morales and has an all-Nicaraguan staff.
This month, representatives from Clinica Verde are attending the prestigious Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University, where they were invited to deliver their social enterprise pitch on the effects of Evidence-Based Design on health. The idea is that environment is part of the health equation. It begins from the moment you enter the clinic – the space, the colors, the cleanliness, the love with which each patient is welcomed and treated.
I hope that Clinica Verde and Nicaragua can serve as a model to the world with this innovative concept.
In the meantime, the staff and leadership of Clinica Verde are excited to be supported by the Hindmarsh family and the efforts of Baby on a Bike. “We hope that this ride will increase Clinica Verde’s ability to help mothers and their children in Nicaragua,” says Michael.
It’s extremely tough to raise money to support this kind of work, so having people like Michael, Shosh and Amaya helping us out on the other side of the world is a great blessing. It’s the only way true change and progress happens – when we reach beyond ourselves to do good.
Susan Dix Lyons is a former journalist and founder of Clínica Verde.